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The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett - Review

Monday, March 2, 2020

I was still really struggling a couple of weeks ago to get into a couple of books that I really wanted to read, so I picked up this book from the side of the bed. I bought it in The Book Vault in Barnsley town centre back in December. I was with my friend Sarah and when I picked it up, intrigued by the premise, she said she had read it and liked it, and that it was better than the first one in the series. That sold it to me, so I bought it.

It's about a forensic anthropologist called Dr Hunter, who has worked with the police on previous occasions when needed to look at bones. He's called to St Jude's, an abandoned hospital on the verge of being demolished in order for an office block to be built on its grounds. A body has been found in the loft and Hunter has to help the pathologist to identify the woman. The building is precarious and while they're in situ the pathologist, Dr Conrad, falls through the floor into the room below. He isn't badly hurt but the room he's fallen into isn't on the building plans. It's been bricked up from the outside, and inside are two bodies, both of which have been restrained and which show signs of having been burnt.

The first body is given to Hunter to work on. The woman was pregnant, the bones of a tiny foetus found within her. She's been mummified, possibly thanks to the conditions in the attic, and wrapped in tarpaulin. Hunter expects to work on the other two bodies, but they're handed over to a much younger expert called Mears.

Meanwhile, in his own life, Hunter is living in a flat borrowed from a friend of a friend in a secure block, a flat that is much posher than his own. This is because he was stalked by a woman called Grace and was stabbed by her and left for dead. The police, including Ward who he is working for currently, thought it better if he moved. Hunter previously lost his wife and child in a car accident, and is now in a relationship with a woman called Rachel. At the beginning of the book she is going to Greece to work for a few weeks, leaving Hunter alone.

He also helps an old woman called Lola and is shocked to discover she is caring for her adult son at home. As St Jude's throws up more grisly secrets, Hunter becomes closer and closer to the investigation.

That's my run down of the plot, but really only the beginning of the plot, because a LOT happens in this book and a lot of it is ridiculous. For one thing, the police tell Hunter a lot of information that they really shouldn't. There's a lot of circumstance and coincidences, which annoyed me. Hunter does some really stupid things at times, too. I found it compelling, and wanted to finish it, but it's not like a normal police procedural. I guess that is partly because Hunter isn't police, but I'm not sure the effect works all that well. I also found a lot of it just beyond belief, and the last hundred pages just frustrated me because I felt like the story was over and then it just wasn't.

I'm glad I read the book and tried the author, but I wouldn't rush to read anything else by him. I'm giving this a three out of five.

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